Burning Salts, To Inspiring Young Girls

May 30, 2017 By Emily Hardy
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I grew up in a military family and moved around a lot. I went to 8 schools in two countries before I was 16 and met a lot of really good friends.

I saw different cultures and met people from different backgrounds than me. One thing that stayed constant was my family, and I think that is why I am so close to my siblings, Gillian (GG) and Will. It also is a part of why I love to travel to new places.

Even though I moved around all the time, I always enjoyed going to school. I didn’t always love science though. When I was little I always just thought it was a lot of facts, and it wasn’t until I was in high school that I really realized that it was a big puzzle. I have always loved puzzles and when I took my first chemistry class, I realized this was a puzzle about why everything worked the way it did.

Burning Salts...

Have you ever burned salt before? That seems like an odd question, right?

Well in high school I took a chemistry class and on the first day Ms. Dech showed us that different salts burn different colors. She put different white salts into a flame and the flames turned purple! There were also blue and green and red flames. I wanted to know how that worked and have loved chemistry ever since.

Color changes were what made me start loving chemistry and are still part of what I do today. I finished high school in Chesapeake, Virginia and then went to college at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. I majored in chemistry and then I decided to go to graduate school in Auburn Alabama. I started a PhD program in inorganic chemistry. Inorganic chemistry means that I learn about chemicals that have metals in them. I love inorganic chemistry because it has so many colors.

To Cooking In The Lab!

I am a synthetic chemist – which is a fancy way to say I make things in a lab. It is actually a lot like cooking, but you don’t want to lick the spoon.

My favorite thing to do in lab is to make a new sensor, which no one else has ever made before. It’s like trying out a new recipe for dinner. I get to find a new recipe for a sensor, and get to try it out. Sometimes it works how it is supposed to, and the sensor will work. Sometimes the recipe doesn’t work as well and you end up burning everything.

My favorite thing to do when I’m not in lab is to do science experiments with middle and high schoolers. I helped run the Science Fair here in Auburn and go to a middle school once a month to do science experiments at the girl’s science club. We talked about the chemistry of glow sticks the last time I went, and learned how they work!

Wondering about salts and their colors? Check out this video below!